Saturday, December 5, 2009

Carve a Roast Turkey


One half of a roast turkey, "plated".

It's not often I get to carve a turkey. Actually, I've done it three times so far, including this opportunity. While three times the size of a chicken, cutting it up to cook or carving it to eat is essentially the same.

Cut through the skin betweening the breast and leg. I always go for the one on the left, cavity toward me, since I'm right-handed. Thus, my paper weight hand simply holds, allowing my right hand to do some precision cutting.


Push down on the thigh-drum joint toward the carving platter, allowing the body-thigh joint to become evident. Cut parallel to the tapered part of the breast, feel where the body-thigh joint is and cut through it between the bones.

This one here was a little tricky since the ball was really far in there. I continued pushing the leg while I manipulated the knife to find the soft part in the joint.

Holding the drum perpendicular to your own body, cut parallel to the drum through the joint between the thigh and drum. It seems wrong to do it that way, thus my tendency is to turn the knife and attempt to cut through the joint at a 45° angle. While it seems that would be the correct angle, it's not. Trust me, cut parallel to the leg, find the soft spot in the joint and cut through it.


Slice through part of the breast at nearly 90° from the tapered part of the breast. While pushing the wing down and sort of pulling it out away from the body, continue cutting until you reach the joint. Feel with the knife for the softest part and finish the cut, separating the entire wing.

I find the wings to be the hardest to separate since the giant boob is in the way. Don't be afraid of "messing up" your bird. Once the breast is separated, you won't be able to tell it was messed up anyway.

Cut sraight down the center of the breast. You'll likely wind up cutting along one side of the keel bone. If you end up on the side you've been carving, good! If not, make another slice along the keel, but scootch the knife a little toward the side you're carving before you start. You want to separate the breast tissue from the bone. The keel bone is essentially perpendicular to the carving board, assuming the bird is still flat on it's back.

As you cut along the keel bone, gently tease the entire half breast away from the bone. Cut the flesh from the bone using the tip of the knife. You'll get to a point where you'll reach bone. Turn the knife and cut toward the carving platter at an angle, removing the breast from the rib cage.

Don't sweat it if you leave a bunch of boob on the carcass. You can make awesome soup with the carcass and remaining flesh later.

Slice the breast.


That's it, that's how you carve the major portions of a bird. Do the other side the same way.

I didn't bother carving the thighs or legs further. Since this bird is my "leftover" bird, I thought it'd be easier to determine what I was going to do with each piece as I used them.

Google Alton Brown turkey videos and you'll come across an excellent description by Alton himself on how to carve a bird. Like this one.

Whatever you do, don't throw the carcass away!  Make awesome soup instead!


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